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The Gift of 'Communion'

Catechesis by Pope Benedict XVI
St Peter's Square, Wednesday 29 March 2006 - in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Through the apostolic ministry the Church, a community gathered by the Son of God who came in the flesh, will live on through the passing times, building up and nourishing communion in Christ and in the Spirit, to which all are called and in which they can experience the salvation given by the Father. The Twelve - as Pope Clement, third Successor of Peter, said at the end of the first century - took pains, in fact, to appoint successors (cf I Clem 42: 4), so that the mission entrusted to them would continue after their death. Over the course of the centuries the Church, organically structured under the guidance of her legitimate Pastors, has thus continued to live in the world as a mystery of communion, in which is reflected to a certain measure the trinitarian communion itself, the mystery of God himself.

The Apostle Paul was already referring to this supreme Trinitarian source when he wished his Christians: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2 Cor 13: 14). These words, probably echoed in the worship of the newborn Church, emphasize how the free gift of the Father in Jesus Christ is realized and expressed in the communion brought about by the Holy Spirit. This interpretation, based on the close parallelism between the three genitives that the text establishes: ("the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ... the love of God... and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit), presents "fellowship" as a specific gift of the Spirit, the fruit of the love given by God the Father and the grace offered by the Lord Jesus.

Moreover, the immediate context, marked by the insistence on fraternal communion, guides us to perceiving the "koinonía" of the Holy Spirit not only as "participation" in the divine life more or less singularly, each one individually, but also, logically, as the "communion" among believers that the Spirit himself kindles as his builder and principal agent (cf Phil 2: 1). One might say that grace, love and communion, referring respectively to Christ, to the Father and to the Holy Spirit, are different aspects of the one divine action for our salvation. This action creates the Church and makes the Church - as St Cyprian said in the third century - "a people brought into unity from the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" (De Orat. Dom. 23; PL 4, 553, cit in Lumen Gentium, 4).

The idea of communion as participation in Trinitarian life is illuminated with special intensity in John's Gospel. Here, the communion of love that binds the Son to the Father and to men is at the same time the model and source of the fraternal communion that must unite disciples with one another: "Love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 15: 12; cf 13: 34); "that they may all be one... even as we are one" (Jn 17: 21-22). Hence, it is communion of men with the Trinitarian God and communion of men for each other. During the time of his earthly pilgrimage, the disciple can already share through communion with the Son in his divine life and that of the Father: "our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ" (I Jn 1: 3). This life of fellowship with God and with one another is the proper goal of Gospel proclamation, the goal of conversion to Christianity: "That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us" (I Jn 1:2). Thus, this twofold communion with God and with one another is inseparable. Wherever communion with God, which is communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is destroyed, the root and source of our communion with one another is destroyed. And wherever we do not live communion among ourselves, communion with the Trinitarian God is not alive and true either, as we have heard.

Let us now go a step further. Communion - fruit of the Holy Spirit - is nourished by the eucharistic Bread (cf 1 Cor 10: 16-17) and is expressed in fraternal relations in a sort of anticipation of the future world. In the Eucharist, Jesus nourishes us, He unites us with himself, with his Father, with the Holy Spirit and with one another. This network of unity that embraces the world is an anticipation of the future world in our time. Precisely in this way, since it is an anticipation of the future world, communion is also a gift with very real consequences. It lifts us from our loneliness, from being closed in on ourselves, and makes us sharers in the love that unites us to God and to one another. It is easy to understand how great this gift is if we only think of the fragmentation and conflicts that afflict relations between individuals, groups and entire peoples. And if the gift of unity in the Holy Spirit does not exist, the fragmentation of humanity is inevitable. "Communion" is truly the Good News, the remedy given to us by the Lord to fight the loneliness that threatens everyone today, the precious gift that makes us feel welcomed and beloved by God, in the unity of his People gathered in the name of the Trinity; it is the light that makes the Church shine forth like a beacon raised among the peoples. "If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another" (1 Jn 1:6). Thus, the Church, despite all the human frailties that mark her historical profile, is revealed as a marvellous creation of love, brought into being to bring Christ close to every man and every woman who truly desires to meet him, until the end of time. And in the Church, the Lord always remains our contemporary. Scripture is not something of the past. The Lord does not speak in the past but speaks in the present, He speaks to us today, He enlightens us, He shows us the way through life, He gives us communion and thus He prepares us and opens us to peace."


"J'accueille avec joie les pèlerins de langue française. Je salue en particulier les jeunes des collèges Saint-André de Bruxelles, Saint-Charles de Marseille, Saint-Joseph de Fleurance et Madeleine Daniélou de Rueil-Malmaison. Que le Seigneur, qui s'est fait proche de vous, vous donne à tous de vivre en communion profonde avec lui et entre vous !

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims present at this Audience, particularly those from Japan and the United States of America. I also extend a special welcome to the priests from the Institute for Continuing Theological Education at the Pontifical North American College and to the members of the National Conference of Vicars for Religious. Upon all of you I invoke the Lord’s blessings of peace and joy.

Wir alle, liebe Pilger und Besucher aus den deutschsprachigen Ländern deutscher Sprache, dürfen hier auf dem Petersplatz kirchliche Gemeinschaft, die universale weltweite Gemeinschaft, erleben, die der Herr gestiftet hat. Danken wir Gott für dieses Geschenk und öffnen wir unser Herz für die Gnade Christi und für die Liebe, durch die der Heilige Geist uns mit Gott und untereinander vereinen will. Besonders begrüße ich heute den Bezirksfeuerwehrverband der Oberpfalz, die Journalisten aus Österreich in Begleitung von Diözesanbischof Egon Kapellari sowie die Gläubigen aus den vom Stift St. Florian betreuten Pfarren. Die Gemeinschaft mit Gott im Heiligen Geist präge euer ganzes Leben. Euch allen wünsche ich von ganzem Herzen einen gesegneten Tag!

Saludo a los peregrinos de España y América Latina, especialmente a los alumnos del Seminario Menor de la Asunción de Santiago de Compostela, a los fieles de las parroquias de San Andrés de Borrassá, San Juan de Mata, San Pedro de Ciudad Real, así como a los alumnos del Colegio de las Esclavas de Santander, Cristo Rey de Benifayó, Jesús-María de Barcelona y Fray Luis de Granada. Vivid en comunión fraterna, “amándoos los unos a los otros” y anunciando, así, el Evangelio a todos los hombres.

No decorrer dos séculos a Igreja, organicamente estruturada pela condução dos seus legítimos pastores, segue vivendo no mundo como mistério de comunhão. Tal comunhão, fortalecida pelo Pão eucarístico, se exprime nas relações fraternas, fazendo-nos participar do amor que nos une a Deus e aos nossos irmãos. Empenhemo-nos sempre mais a reforçá-la pelo amor de Cristo que nos uniu. Saúdo com particular afeto os peregrinos portugueses do Colégio Mira Rio de Lisboa e da Escola Roque Gameiro de Amadora, bem como os brasileiros de diversas procedências. A todos convido aproveitar esta passagem por Roma, para confirmar a própria fé ante o túmulo do Apóstolo Pedro. Que Deus vos abençoe!

Serdeczne pozdrowienia kieruję do obecnych tu Polaków. Dziękuję za wasze modlitwy. Wielki Post to czas przemiany życia i spotkania z Chrystusem, który „nas do końca umiłował”. Jest szansą, by pokonać egoizm, podziały, nieporozumienia. Niech w waszych rodzinach i wspólnotach zapanuje duch wzajemnego pojednania, dobra i życzliwości. Niech Bóg wam błogosławi!

Velika mi je radost pozdraviti hrvatske hodočasnike, a osobito mlade iz Osijeka. Predragi, obratiti se znači svim srcem zavoljeti svoga Stvoritelja. Ne bojte se vjerovati mu i posvetiti svoj život Kristu, dijeleći s njim svoju radost i teškoće. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

Srdečně zdravím poutníky ze Studénky! Drazí, v této postní době prosme Pána o pravé a hluboké obrácení. K tomu ze srdce žehnám vám i vašim drahým! Chvála Kristu!


Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare saluto le Religiose partecipanti al corso promosso dall’USMI, i fedeli della diocesi di Livorno, accompagnati dal loro Pastore Mons. Diego Coletti e dal Vescovo emerito Mons. Alberto Ablondi. Saluto inoltre i fedeli di Bellona, guidati dal loro Vescovo Mons. Bruno Schettino. Cari amici, vi esorto a vivere che è sorgente di gioia e risposta vera alle attese e agli interrogativi profondi del cuore di ogni uomo.

Lastly, my thoughts go to the sick, the newly-weds and the young people, especially the students of the "Andrea Bafile" High School in Collesapone dell'Aquila, as well as the young people of the Diocese of Caserta who are gathered here with their Pastor, Bishop Raffaele Nogaro. May the Lenten Season, with its repeated invitations to conversion, lead you, dear young people, to a love for Christ and his Church that is ever more aware; may it increase in you, dear sick people, the awareness that the Crucified Lord sustains us in trial; may it help you, dear newly-weds, to make your family life a place of constant growth in faithful and generous love."